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Census 2000
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Population count seems low to city

With Largo's annexations, officials think growth should have been more than 5.6 percent. They may seek a recount.

By ERIC STIRGUS

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 11, 2001


LARGO -- The U.S. Census may have come up short when it counted heads last year, and city leaders say they may challenge the count to prove it.

City leaders can't fathom how the county's population could grow 8 percent and Largo's increase by only 5.6 percent, especially since Largo aggressively annexed property the past decade. Largo is the third most populated city in Pinellas County, behind St. Petersburg and Clearwater.

"We thought it would go up a little bit higher," said Erik Bredfeldt, the city's assistant community development director.

City officials discussed their concerns with the U.S. Census last week. Bredfeldt and others in his department agreed to wait for the release of additional census figures so the city can figure out how the census bureau came up with its numbers.

"I would think because of all of the annexation, that Largo's growing," said City Commissioner Mary Laurance. "I know a lot of it was commercial, but some of it has to be residential."

The city can challenge the count between June 30, 2001, and Sept. 30, 2003.

Census figures determine the city's share of the state sales tax and motor fuel tax. Revenues from those taxes are distributed to Largo's general fund and provide money for street improvements.

Basically, the more people Largo has, the more money Largo gets.

"If you can show you are a larger community, it really translates into additional public dollars," said Bredfeldt.

City officials theorize census counters missed some residents in Largo's numerous mobile home parks. Since many park residents live elsewhere during the summer, some may have listed their address in another state.

"I think we were under the impression that they would be counted down here," said Bredfeldt.

About one-third of Largo's residents live in mobile home parks, city officials say.

U.S. Census officials did not return a telephone call for comment. The census says that 69,371 people lives in Largo, a 5.6-percent increase from 1990.

Census figures show Largo's greatest population spurt took place in the southeast corner of the city, where several subdivisions sprouted during the past decade. Much of the rest of Largo is virtually built out, Bredfeldt said.

"There are only so many people you can fit in," he said.

During last year's census count, the city conducted a public awareness campaign to encourage residents to fill out census forms. Brochures and pamphlets were placed at city facilities. Reminders were broadcast on the government access channel.


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